WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, has announced plans to support digital payments in India, one of its largest markets. The move is part of WhatsApp’s ongoing efforts to expand its services and attract more users in India.
According to a recent TechCrunch article, WhatsApp has revealed that it is working on a feature that will allow users in India to make payments directly from the app. The feature will be enabled by the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a government-backed system that enables instant bank transfers.
You could actually arrange one on the web in the event that you live beyond Kolkata
The move is significant for WhatsApp, as India is one of its largest markets, with over 400 million users. WhatsApp has been trying to expand its services in India for some time, but has faced a number of regulatory hurdles. In particular, the company has been prevented from launching its digital payments service due to concerns over data privacy and security.
However, WhatsApp has been working to address these concerns and has now received approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to launch its payments service. The company is expected to roll out the service in the coming months, following a limited launch with a small group of users.
The move into digital payments is part of a broader trend among messaging apps, which are increasingly looking to expand their services beyond messaging and into e-commerce and other areas. In India, messaging apps are especially popular, with many users relying on them for everything from socializing to shopping.
With its new payments feature, WhatsApp is well positioned to take advantage of this trend and become a major player in the Indian e-commerce market. By enabling users to make payments directly from the app, WhatsApp can offer a more seamless and convenient user experience, which could help it attract even more users and cement its position as a dominant player in the Indian market.
India has over 450 million WhatsApp users, making it the app’s biggest market by volume. But it’s not the only country that has made WhatsApp an important part of daily life. In fact, techcrunch has identified a few other developing countries where startups are building businesses around the messaging app.
In Indonesia, for example, startups run business apps on top of the popular chat platform to validate with customers in a quick and cheap way. Vahan, a Y Combinator-backed startup, uses WhatsApp to connect delivery startups with blue-collar workers in the country. The startup says it has sourced more than 2,000 people in Indonesia and has done 25,000 deliveries so far, including to hospitals and pharmacies.
A similar trend is underway in other developing countries where mobile phones are a central part of everyday life. In Indonesia, for instance, many of the country’s tens of millions of mobile users spend at least five hours a day on social and communication apps. And a growing number of those apps are used for commerce, too.
That’s why it’s no surprise that WhatsApp is using techcrunch to share its plans to support payments in India, where it has a large user base and where banks are still struggling to reach the unbanked. The company has been working on the feature for some time, according to sources familiar with its plans, and it’s now in beta.
The new payment support, which is part of UPI — the unified payments interface for India — will allow people to send money directly from their phones to other WhatsApp users excluding merchant accounts. That’s a huge deal because it could help drive more people into the financial ecosystem.
But the rollout has run into some regulatory snags. The Indian government, for one, has argued that it’s inappropriate for WhatsApp to have too much power over users’ payments data. In fact, a number of local businesses have also come forward to say that WhatsApp’s policies and data sharing practices are unreasonably restrictive for Indian users.
While it might seem like a minor issue, it has implications for Facebook’s future in India, as well as its plans to expand its WhatsApp Pay service elsewhere. The company launched WhatsApp Pay to a small number of users in India in 2018 but has been stuck in a regulatory maze since then, unable to roll out the service to all users.
Moreover, India’s latest proposed privacy laws will put even more pressure on social media companies to build robust protections for user data. That’s because the legislation will require social media companies and instant messaging platforms to provide law enforcement agencies with information about users who have posted content or sent messages it deems suspicious.
It’s a move that will likely raise concerns among privacy advocates and the tech community alike. That’s because it would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to identify WhatsApp users through their personal communications, a change that could lead to privacy issues for the company and its partners.